Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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Cultural groups in the region

by Karine Ruel

Living in a region such as the Eastern townships implies living among many different social classes and social groups.  Since the province of Quebec has its doors wide open to immigration, Sherbrooke inhabitants should expect to rub shoulders with “others”.  Should we really consider as “others” people who come from other countries, when among our own “genuine” population there are huge differences of social classes?   Sherbrooke, as well as every other municipality, has its own particularities when it comes to the population, which often comes from the type of education the youngsters received, the values shared by the society, and the language spoken.

Among Sherbrooke inhabitants, we can easily find different social groups and ranks such as students, families (reconstituted families, one parent families), workers, unemployed people, rich, and poor people…According to a survey conducted by Statistique Canada in 2004, there are approximately 73, 285 inhabitants in Sherbrooke; 81,8 % are working, and 6 % are unemployed.  The average value of private dwelling in Sherbrooke is 99 720$, and the median income for a 2 person household is 43 387$ a year. 

Sherbrooke is a city where inhabitants can freely choose their activities, hobbies, work, and school according to their preferences.  There are 4 public high schools, each calling for a different speciality (arts, sports, communication, technology), and 4 private high schools in which similar programs are offered.  Having public and private high schools in the city creates a division among teenagers. First of all at the academic level, and second of all on a social basis  since private school students often come from wealthier families.  There is nothing wrong in offering diversity to children, it is then very important to show them to respect it!

Lennoxville, a small city near Sherbrooke, has it’s own private English high school and college, attended by a very specific group of people.  The students of course meet the bill 101 requirements, which gives them the possibility to be educated in English.  Bishops’ University is also situated in Lennoxville, which adds on to the “English” culture of this city.  The fact that English and French speakers live closely in such a small area often creates confusion and annoyance.  Bilingualism is common in both cities but is not the majority in Sherbrooke.  This language barrier tends to create othering among French and English speakers.  Who is the center?  It depends from which point of view: Lennoxville inhabitants perceive the French speakers as the margin, and Sherbrooke inhabitants perceive English speakers as the others.

Many immigrants choose Sherbrooke as a city in which to settle.  According to a survey conducted by Statistique Canada in 2001, there were 3, 865 foreign born inhabitants in Sherbrooke out of 73, 285 inhabitants.  Among our immigrants, the most numerous are Black immigrants and Latino Americans.  Sherbrooke became the first city in 1983 to adopt a cultural policy, and, has from then developed cultural services, activities, and facilities that serve the entire population.  As mentioned in Sherbrooke’s Cultural Policy, its mission is “to promote access to culture for all interested citizens”.  This project is certainly very interesting for the Sherbrooke population, but does it take into account the foreign population, people from other cultures?  The answer is yes!  In fact, the policy in itself promotes cultural activities such as Le Festival des Traditions du Mondes, where different ethnic groups are invited to present aspects of their culture. 

In conclusion, Sherbrooke is a city where inhabitants can easily live their own life without being pressurized from others.  The diversity offered in many fields, the bilingualism, and the presence of many ethnic groups, contribute to the cultural development of this city.  The next step towards intercultural competence is maybe the promotion and the improvement of accessibility to cultural activities in the city…

Works cited

 

1.      http://statcan.ca/

2.      http://ville.sherbrooke.qc.ca/fr/citoyens/slscvc/politiqueeng.pdf